Engaging All Learners

Engaging All Learners

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Teacher Satisfaction, Collaboration Are Keys to Student Achievement

Teachers who are happy and satisfied with their job are probably better at it, past research (and general wisdom) has said. But a new study looks at exactly how teacher satisfaction affects student achievement—and how being a part of a professional learning community can make a major difference.

The study used data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Survey, which followed a nationally representative sample of children from kindergarten in 1998 through middle school. That survey had also asked the children's teachers questions about their overall job satisfaction and the extent of teachers' collaboration with other teachers.  The authors found that students have higher reading achievement by 5th grade when they have teachers who enjoy teaching and think they are making a difference. The researchers did not find a significant relationship between students' math achievement and their teachers' job satisfaction.

However, the study found that when students have teachers who are dissatisfied with their jobs, the children who are in schools with a strong professional community score significantly higher in math achievement by 3rd and 5th grades. (This also held true for reading achievement in 3rd grade, but there was no difference in reading in 5th grade.)

"In other words, the presence of a strong professional community serves as a cushion that can mitigate some of the harmful effects on students when assigned to teachers with low levels of personal job satisfaction," the authors wrote.

Professional learning communities are when the school has a shared vision and culture where teachers are encouraged to collaborate with each other, with the goal of improving student learning. Past research has found that teachers tend to have higher job satisfaction when there is a strong, collaborative school culture.

The study concluded that school culture is a critical factor that can shape the relationship between teachers' job satisfaction and students' achievement.

To read the entire article by Madeline Will in Teaching Now, click here.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

A Case for Kindness

We have spent the entire month of February collecting examples of Random Acts of Kindness.  The examples in this post are just a handful of over 250 reported acts thus far. Even though this is a friendly school competition, we all win by teaching, modeling, and showcasing kindness.
Why stop when February ends?  We all hope our students experience kindness at home, but what if that is not true? How can we continue to recognize and model kindness everyday? According to Aristotle, "Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all." Here are some easy ideas that allow you to make a case for kindness everyday. You can use them as is or adapt them to fit your style. 

1) One Good Thing: This takes less than five minutes, but sets a positive tone for the day or class period.  Tell students to turn to their neighbor and finish the sentence: "One good thing in my life is..." or "Something good that happened is..."  You could randomly ask for a couple of volunteers to share daily with the class. The teacher might model one each morning, then ask for volunteers.  The possibilities are vast for this one.  This a great opportunity for students to be celebrated and affirmed.

2) Writing Kindness Activity: This activity is a good way to get some writing fluency in while catering to those who might not share this information otherwise. Give out the following sentence starters (or put them on the board, draw out of a hat, have them make up their own, etc..):

  • One idea I've gotten from you is...
  • I really like your personality because...
  • I know I can count on you when...
  • I really appreciate when you...
  • Some adjectives that describe you are...
  • I am impressed by the way you...
  • I look forward to seeing you because...

Have students put their name at the top of this paper BEFORE filling it out.  Take them up then randomly pass them out and ask the students to answer three of these prompts about the name at the top of the paper.  After a few minutes, pass them around again.  Do several rounds and then return it back to the name at the top of the paper. Instant smiles. You could do this one time at the beginning of the year and read one comment per day.

3) Shout Out: Start modeling this on day one and see how long it takes before your students start
doing it.  "I really like how...", "I noticed that...", or "I'd like to give a shout-out to..." You can fit a few shout-outs in as the bell rings, as students are coming in, or before you start class.

4) Appreciation Box: This is a great activity for students who do not like to share with the whole group.  Create a box and put it somewhere in the room with sticky notes or small strips of paper. The teacher and students can leave appreciations for classmates, encouragements, and/or shout-outs.Then, take one out each day and read it aloud before class starts.  One teacher who did this said, "We became a family."

5) Temperature Check: Ask the simple question, "How are you feeling today?"  This simple emotional check-in is a great reminder that we all share the same feelings and emotions and they go up and down depending on circumstances. This also gives the teacher insight to students who may be having a tough time, and who may need you to follow up with them privately after class.  For young students, this is also a great way to build a larger vocabulary of feelings for better communication.

6) Community Circle: This activity would be reserved for once or twice a year.  Maybe there has been a traumatic event, the students are not getting along, or other various reasons that impact the classroom. Move desks into a circle or sit on the floor in a circle.  One person only may speak at a time.  The teacher facilitates by posing a question or topic.  You can also have an object that students hold and can only speak when holding this object. This is a great activity to model sharing, listening, respecting others, and collaboration.

For more Kindness In The Classroom Activities Click HERE

Monday, February 20, 2017

District Literacy Committee Meets

The TCS District Literacy Committee met Friday, February 17, to begin conversations about an internal literary canon for TCS and to discuss Chapter 3 of Reading Reconsidered.  The group is led by Dr. Jennifer Cardwell, Edra Perry, and Kelly McGough.

Dr. Cardwell shared learning targets for the group.

Magnolia teachers shared how they had turned around Chapter 2 training to their teachers.

HTHS literacy committee members have encouraged their teachers to use readalouds.  

Cahaba's literacy committee recently shared close reading bursts with their teachers.

Paine teachers updated the group on Paine's progress.

HTMS teachers shared the focus of their work on increasing literacy.

UAB Regional Inservice Director, Dr. Boyd Rogan, joined in the discussion of Chapter 3.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Scantron Training at Magnolia

Monday afternoon, Math Coach Jana Walls and Scantron Educational Specialist Terrence Ingram presented information to the Magnolia staff about using data from Scantron to improve learning.

Literacy Turnaround Training at Cahaba

The Cahaba Elementary Literacy Committee (Joy Wright, Allie Aldrich, and Jana Feild) presented turnaround training about close reading strategies for their staff Monday afternoon.  Close reading is a strategy that Doug Lemov, in his book, Reading Reconsidered, encourages teachers in all grade levels to use.  Lemov describes close reading as:

"... the methodical breaking down of the language and structure of a complex passage to establish and analyze its meaning.  Teaching students to do it requires layered reading and asking sequenced, text-dependent questions; and it should end whenever possible with mastery expressed through writing."

Close reading ensures that students are able to glean specific and comprehensive understanding from even very difficult texts.  It is a tool that allows students to read text that is over their heads - one of the fundamental experiences of attending (or preparing for) college.  And, close reading develops "language sense."  It develops in students an "ear" for word, syntax, rhythm, and structure that is applicable across texts.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Elementary Reading Update

AR Points    

(Millionaires are students who have read a million or more words since the start of school.)

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Cahaba First Grade Teachers Collaboratively Plan

Cahaba first grade teachers met today with reading coach, Edra Perry, for a full day of reviewing their past reading plans and preparing for the remainder of the year.  They discussed what went well and what changes need to be in place for next year.  The teachers coded their unit plans with the CCRS. They looked ahead to upcoming units for the remainder of the year, determining what sessions could be combined and which units must be taught to finish out the year.